Despite valiant efforts, billions of dollars and years of campaigning, conservation, in the main, appears to be losing the battle to save species, environments and bio-diversity.
This is hardly surprising given the world population exceeded 7 billion in 2012 with the global population expected to reach between 8.3 and 10.9 billion by 2050. All of these people will rightly demand water, food and energy. These and the additional components of the lifestyle they desire need to be considered when designing future conservation strategies.
Conservationists are understandably concerned when economics is put on the table when discussing the future of the environment and protection of wildlife. Understandably, because too often they have seen that this has resulted in letting greedy, destructive forces have their way. But for conservation to be successful on the scale we want, and some might say need, we have to take account of the power of human behavior. By incorporating behavioral economics into conservation strategies we not only get a better understanding of how people change their mind, but we can proactively steer behaviour change to support people make more informed choices.
Many people around the world have never listened to conservation messages. Until recent decades they have simply been trying to survive, so conservation has simply not been on their radar. People who did once listen have started to switch off. For too long they have heard the same messages, just being said more loudly, whilst seeing the natural world become more depleted. The lack of significant, positive progress has made them apathetic when it comes to taking action.
Only by understanding the effects of social, cognitive and emotional factors on the economic decisions individuals make will we have the ability to influence and shape them. We must put ourselves in their shoes, not simply demand they listen to our opinions. By delivering a message in a currency that the other party relates to, even if it does seem distasteful to us, we can start, re-start or change the conversation. This can lead to behaviour change in purchasing and lifestyle decisions.
This is the objective of Breaking The Brand. By understanding the motivation of the primary users of illegal and/or endangered wildlife products we aim to build campaigns to influence the patterns of purchasing behaviour – our initial target will be focusing on the demand for rhino horn in Viet Nam and throughout Asia which is causing the current killing spree.
Just as with illicit drug use, focusing efforts on the supply side alone has shown no long-term reduction in usage. Given the value of rhino horn in Asia even high tech anti-poaching techniques are unlikely to be enough when it’s worth spending $50K-$100K to obtain a single horn.
To learn more, please read the original project proposal:
Read our 12-months project update with the latest information about the progress we have made since February 2013:
Read our second annual update with the latest information about the progress we have made since March 2014:
Read our latest update on the current status of demand reduction campaigns and how they need to evolve to be more effective: